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Inner Agility

A great asset to develop in your inner world is the ability to be inwardly agile. By this I mean to understand more deeply your psychological, emotional, and spiritual worlds so that you can know how to create movement when faced with challenges and difficulties.

When we are faced with a challenge, namely a situation that takes us out of our normal range of functioning, all of the processes we take for granted when we are in balance come to a grinding halt.

Instead of confidently moving forward with our daily routine, we may hesitate and dwell a bit longer in making decisions.

Instead of being light and enthusiastic, we become more grave and serious.

Instead of seeing possibility, we are shut down, unable to move forward with any sense of agency.

In this place, the delicate balance which allows us to operate without self-consciousness is thrown into chaos, and even the simplest of tasks requires deliberation and second-guessing.

Inner agility as a practice is a way of allowing life movement to resume. All life requires movement, and creating movement for ourselves first requires the ability to see, feel, and know when we’re actually stuck.

The image I use for this practice of inner agility is actually from my own childhood. As a boy, I would travel from my home in New Jersey to Pennsylvania to visit my relatives. There, I would often go out and play in the woods by myself all day. One of my favorite games was to pick a direction and run as fast as I could through the woods. I would have to navigate trees, rocks, and streams in a spontaneous way, like running a natural obstacle course. I wouldn’t let myself slow down my pace, and I would keep moving no matter what obstacle came next. Having to respond in sudden and various ways made me feel physically and mentally vibrant and alive. It brought out my spontaneous creativity and showed me how resourceful I could be when I gave myself the correct circumstances and environment.

Our inner world is no different. To be inwardly agile is to see our challenges not as obstructions, but as situations to which we apply our spontaneity and creativity.

Consider the metaphor of an obstacle course. The basic premise rests on the fact that the “obstacles” themselves are not set up as impediments to stop us from running the course, but as opportunities to bring out and develop our skills and talents. By meeting each “obstacle”, we’re rising to the challenge in a spontaneous and creative way, perhaps even surprising ourselves at the latent personal qualities that are uncovered as we confront and overcome them.

With each challenge overcome, we also gain a sense of confidence in our ability to handle whatever life will throw at us, either inwardly or outwardly. This confidence in our own ability to move with the present moment regardless of the circumstance builds our resilience and allows us to see our lives as moving in a positive direction towards the future.

An important distinction to make using this metaphor is that the “obstacles” are not negative things. What is difficult about them is exactly what makes them important, and the difficulty is what serves to bring out qualities and strengths in us that otherwise would not have been seen.  Using this metaphor, having a “problem” isn’t actually a problem. Instead, the problem is reframed as a temporary difficulty which becomes something that, upon rising to and meeting it head-on, enlivens, deepens, and enriches us.